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Heat's season far from a failure

Heat's season far from a failure

Heat's season far from a failure - August 4, 2009

By Nino Cardenas

Laredo Morning Times

The Heat isn’t accustomed to early exits in the Premier Development League playoffs.

So it was a bit surprised when it bowed out in the semifinals this time around.

“As I have said all along, you have to measure your success in the regular season and not necessarily the playoffs,” Heat owner Shashi Vaswani said. “The playoffs are one game, do-or-die and more often than not, especially in the game of soccer, the best team does not win.

“So the playoffs have a lot to do with one team being more fortunate than the other. The past three years, we have been fortunate enough to pass through to the finals.”

The Bradenton Academics gave the Heat an early exit last weekend, before losing to the Ventura County Fusion.

The Fusion took on the Chicago Fire on for the PDL championship, the Fusion winning the title.

“Nature will always find a way to eventually balance things out, and I guess this was the year that the universe decided to balance the scales,” Vaswani said.

The Heat had an injury-plagued season, which continued to its last game, in which the club lost its two central defenders in Carlos Ordaz (torn ACL) and Pedro Ramos (groin pull).

In its playoff opener, the Heat lost midfielder Alex Hergert to an ACL tear.

“You will be hard-pressed to find similar events to those, but then again you will also be hard pressed to find a relatively new franchise that has reached the championship stage three times consecutively in a league with more than 60 teams,” Vaswani said.

This time around, things didn’t go quite the Heat’s way. Still, the club added another Mid-South divisional title and set foot in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.

“The season, because we have made the finals three years in a row and are spoiled to a certain extent, is obviously a disappointment at first sight,” Vaswani said. “But when you sit back and really analyze the whole season closely, you realize that we have to be thankful for the season we had. Struggling with injuries all season and still managing to become Mid-South division champions is a feat to be proud of.”

Overall, the team finished 8-2-8 and heads into the offseason as one of the PDL favorites come next year.

As is the case every year, the Heat is sure to go through some changes in personnel.

While the club is likely to return the core group of players, nothing is certain.

The Heat is sure to welcome back many of its young players that have grown up in its youth camp system.

Several of the youth players played integral roles in the team’s success this season. The most recent example was its opening-round playoff win against the West Texas Sockers in which Alfredo Ramos scored the lone goal. The former St. Augustine student spent time with the youth team.

“That experience in a big game is exactly what we strive to accomplish, and that makes the season worthwhile no matter where we finish,” Vaswani said.

The one constant in the PDL is that the level of play in the Mid-South division has been improving year after year.

“Working harder than usual in order to keep up is no secret, and we will definitely have our work cut for us,” Vaswani said. “In the meantime, we will work diligently within our youth program to develop as many players as possible.”

The latest teams to join the division have made sure that each season is going to be exciting.

In turn, the Heat has learned that if it’s going to stay atop the division, it needs to keep up its level of play year in and year out.

“I think all of us involved have learned an important lesson: we cannot be lax and expect to coast through to the finals every year,” Vaswani said. “I think it will make us all work harder throughout the offseason and into next year’s campaign.

“In other words, after a storybook ride for three years, we are brought back down to earth, which is not necessarily a bad thing.”